'Man Of La Mancha' Playwright Passes Away

Dale Wasserman, 94, the playwright who penned Man Of La Mancha and stage play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest but cut his teeth on TV drama in medium’s infancy, died Dec. 21 in Paradise Valley. Arizona.

The news was not reported until after Christmas. According to a longtime associate, that was because Wasserman's widow, Martha Nelly, was honoring his wishes that if anything should happen before Dec. 25, she should hold off relaying the news so as not to spoil anyone's holiday.

By his own account, Wasserman wrote some 40 teleplays in addition to a dozen stage plays and 15 films.

His first TV drama, Elisha and the Long Knives, was for NBC's Matinee Theater in 1955. The series won an Emmy that year for best daytime program. It was his TV script for I, Don Quixote which he transformed into the Broadway hit, Man Of La Mancha.

His other TV works included Engineer of Death, about Adolph Eichmann, and The Lincoln Murder Case, which told the story as a murder mystery.

Wasserman's fictional heroes were often outcasts, a role he cast himself in as well. On his Web site, he claims to have chosen to live in Arizona because "it's the one State which refuses to adopt Daylight Saving Time."

Wasserman was born in a Ukrainian logging camp in Wisconsin on Nov. 2, 1914. Orphaned at a young age, he rode the rails, "graduating as a Hobo cum laude,' he once said, before drifting into theater.

Beatrice Williams-Rude contributed to this obituary.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.